The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: If released, it would be a no-brainer to go after Leonard Fournette as a free agent.
Explanation: The outside media, and even a lot of the local media, really wants to believe the Steelers are high on adding a running back this offseason, with a lot of mocks giving them a back like Jonathan Taylor in the second round. With word that Fournette is on the trade block, Pittsburgh is being named as a potential landing spot.
I think it’s fair to say that it’s very unlikely the Steelers are going to trade for Fournette. But let’s say he does get released, hypothetically. How could they not be interested in kicking the tires on such a pedigreed back, given the uncertainty of the running back position beyond 2020, and of the state of the running game in its entirety?
Art Rooney II. Mike Tomlin. Kevin Colbert. These are among the people who have said that they need to run the ball better than they did a year ago. A lot of that did have to do with James Conner missing time. You know what would help insulate against injury? Bringing in another quality back, and potentially a guy they can have beyond 2020.
As Dave Bryan has pointed out, if you are rushing to move on from Conner, you have to understand that Fournette has missed just as much time due to injuries and has a comparable or worse rush success rate. While he may be more of a threat to break a big play, Fournette is very much a similar player in terms of performance.
And the kicker is that he would cost more. Pedigree always gets paid on its second contract unless there are some really unusual circumstances, including getting benched (i.e. Artie Burns, Jarvis Jones). These guys weren’t even playing when their final seasons ended.
Fournette rushed for 1152 yards on 265 attempts last year. He added another 522 receiving yards on 76 catches. He has started every game that he has played in. And he has only three fumbles, including just one since his rookie season. Somebody is going to pay him way out of Pittsburgh’s price range.